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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Dec. 7, 2023

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Egg prices are sky high. When will they come down?


A humble supermarket staple is no longer.

Egg prices have soared in recent months, driven largely by a devastating outbreak of avian flu. Some stores have even placed limits on purchases as reports of egg shortages emerge.

At a Kroger in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday, a dozen store-brand eggs cost $4.89, while cage-free, organic eggs hit $9.99. Customers were limited to three cartons.

“It’s just sticker shock,” said Beth Johnson, as she picked up a few groceries for her family. “We used to eat eggs without even thinking. Now it’s practically a luxury item.”

The national average for a dozen large, Grade A eggs has more than doubled from $1.78 in December 2021 to $4.25 last month, according to the Consumer Price Index.

Farmers are navigating the deadliest outbreak of avian flu ever recorded, with nearly 58 million birds in the U.S. affected since last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Of those, 43 million were egg-laying hens.

The outbreak, which also drove up the cost of Thanksgiving turkeys, has reduced the population of egg-laying birds by about 5%.

But Gregory Archer, an associate professor of poultry science at Texas A&M University, said soaring feed and fuel costs also have contributed to the skyrocketing prices.

Meanwhile, demand for eggs was already up as inflation-conscious consumers scaled back on pricier grocery items like meat, Archer added. Egg prices probably will remain high for the next four to six months, as farms replenish their flocks, he said. Pending no further flu outbreaks, prices should fall later this year.

“Generally, eggs are an inexpensive food,” he said. “We think that will eventually continue to be the case.”

For Cedar Ridge Egg Farm in East Texas, rising egg prices have led to a boom in business. The farm has doubled its sales in the past year, now selling roughly 1,800 dozen eggs a day, farmer and co-owner Sam Miller said.

Customers include Central Market, Eataly and the Dallas Farmers Market, with a dozen eggs typically ranging from $6 to $8. But for those willing to drive to the farm in Pickton, about 90 miles east of Dallas, a dozen pasture-raised eggs cost just $4.

“We’ve got people driving an hour to load up on our eggs,” Miller said. “They say they can hardly find them on the shelves and prices are through the roof.”

Johnson, who was shopping at Kroger, said she is still buying eggs, although her family is trying to make a dozen last longer. For example, if a recipe calls for two eggs, she just uses one.

“We are being more mindful and a little more careful,” she said.

On Thursday, egg prices around North Texas hovered between $4 and $10, depending on the brand and how the chickens are raised.

At WinCo in McKinney, a dozen eggs cost $5.82; a dozen at Trader Joe’s in Dallas cost $4.29, and at H-E-B, a dozen eggs was listed at $5.54.

H-E-B president Craig Boyan recently told the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas the San Antonio-based company kept costs down as long as possible, which meant “losing millions of dollars a month selling eggs.”

“But we do not feel like we can pass on the skyrocketing egg cost to the average Texas family,” Boyan said. H-E-B eventually raised egg prices, but the company was “trying to be a shock absorber and buffer” for consumers.

“This is an unbelievably important staple for all of us, especially for low-income Texans.”

©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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